“Breastfeeding Burns Calories” we are told. It’s also the most natural and nutritious start for your little one, helping to protect against illnesses and allergies, as well as protecting against breast cancer in Mum, so it’s no wonder that almost three quarters of Mums in the UK choose to breastfeed their baby.
Hmmm, if that’s so, then why do so many new Mums struggle to lose the baby weight?
When we gain or lose weight, it can be two things; we can gain or lose muscle, or we can gain or lose fat. If we want to be strong, look lean and toned, to look and feel fit, then we ideally want to be burning fat whilst building muscle (and when I say building, I mean strengthening – we women do not naturally ‘bulk’ like a body builder without specifically applied techniques).
Breastfeeding does use up calories, in fact anything from 100-600 of them depending on how much your little one is taking from you, so you will either need to eat more or you will notice weight loss if you gained weight during your pregnancy. However at the same time it encourages fat storage, as a natural preventative measure against famine, so that there will always be ‘food’ stores for your baby. Makes sense right?
This happens because of differences in hormones – lower oestrogen and testosterone, but higher protactin levels, in nursing mothers, and this reduces the ability to burn fat.
Combine this with the common diet of the tired and time short new Mum – toast and cake, with the odd plate of leftover toddler lunch, and no time to exercise, and you have a recipe for fat storage on every level.
Breastfeeding is still the best option for both Mum and baby, but until such time that your stop and fat burning becomes easier, it can be helpful to reduce starchy carb intake, EAT as little sugar as possible, as many vegetables as possible, and more protein than you were before. In addition to this some women find reducing dairy intake (it’s a myth that you need to drink milk to make milk) whilst still consuming enough healthy unsaturated fats (nuts, avocados, oily fish etc.), as these fats actually (and ironically) encourage fat burning.
WALK whenever you can – to the corner shop, to Mum and baby groups, take the dog out, whatever works for you.
EXERCISE smarter not harder (once you’ve been given the six week all clear from your GP) – get down on the floor and do 5-10 full press ups or until your arms ache, then stand up and do 20 full forward leg lunges until they feel like a dead weight, then lie on your back and do sit ups until your tummy muscles burn. I’ll bet that doesn’t take you more than 5 minutes, probably more like 2-3, but do that daily and the results will add up more than an hour on the treadmill every day.
And finally it’s got to be said, that SLEEP is one of the best fat burners as it reduces fat-storing stress hormones and allows your body to recover and function correctly. Wishful thinking huh?!